People say they are “going to see a band“ not going to hear a band.
So, it only stands to reason that they want to “see” something cool that they cant get from listening to a recording. And my job is to be an entertainer. I have always understood that and it has always been reflected in my choice of clothing I wear on stage and yes, the instrument I play. Back in the late 80’s it was the Kubiki X-Factor, a stunning looking bass that looked futuristic and sounded great. In the 90’s I played in a vintage inspired, roots-rock band and so I started playing my old Dan Electro/Silvertone basses. Both of these basses (and the hundreds of other basses I played sounded distinct and pretty great, but they looked super cool on stage and always started discussions with the audience and with other musicians.
Then, I slowly made the switch to the upright bass. I started with an Amped Baby Bass, it was a smaller body bass made of fiberglass from the 60’s. It turned a lot of heads but I moved on to a vintage American bass like everyone else… but I wanted more flash, I ended up with an Alcoa all aluminum bass! Again, the sound didnt match the flashiness of the bass. About 21 years ago I had King DoubleBass make a big Orange Sparkle bass made for me and that was it! That was my sound and my look. Gut or Nylon Strings, a K&K Rockabilly pick up and that what it, finally my sound and my look!
But as years go by I found other fun toys. I spent one summer almost exclusively playing my Kala Ukulele Bass. About 12 years ago I bought an NS Design WAV bass, full scale electric upright bass that looks like a stick. I loved it, but it never really sounded like a true upright to me until recently I found the right strings and the right set up to really make it work (thanks largely to the NinoMute).
This year, I started bringing the NSD to more rehearsals for my band Jelly Roll Mortals. It really seemed to fit many of our songs that really did not require a true upright. And to be honest, more than half of our songs may be better served with an electric bass. Often in studio, I bring my electric and my upright and the NSD since, when I’m in studio ,it’s all about serving the song… Playing live it’s all about serving the audience.
So, where is this all leading me to? A couple weeks ago, I ended up purchasing yet another NSD bass???!!! This one is a real odd-ball. it’s the Omni Bass CR-4 Fretted!! Fretted?? Upright??? 34″ scale???? YES. It was a bought on a whim (an expensive whim). I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I was offered a really good deal so I figured, I could just turn around and sell it if I didn’t like it. Well, I LOVE IT!!
Now back to the point of this post…
Over the last week, I’ve played this NSD bass on a couple of rehearsals and a couple of gigs, a rock gig with Jelly Roll and a jazz gig that I do monthly. My set up was fast and easy, no feedback, woof tone. no sacrifice of low-end to compensate for the kick-drum. At the jazz gig, I was often setup out of sight of some players and some of the audience, they had no idea that it wasn’t a big upright and they really had no idea that it had frets! The sound of my new (and my old) NSD is so much better and more useable than my big King DoubleBass (I know, they said that bought the P-Bass 80 years ago.). I should just put the King in it’s case in the closet and enjoy my new life with my NSD.
“No one wants to see that!”
I recently showed up for a rehearsal for a major tribute show with my NSD over my shoulder and hauling in my big King bass. I told everyone about how much more versatile and better sounding it was and how much easier it will be to switch instruments and bands for the show. NOPE! they want to see the big upright with the OrangeSparkle and flames down the sides. I didn’t even get to take the NSD out of it’s case.
Next, an old friend, a folk-acoustic, singer-songwriter is coming through town soon and asked me to sit-in. His recording have electric bass all over them, He’s traveling with an electric keyboardist. When I asked if he wanted me to play the NSD for ease of use, set up in a small stage, sound flexibility… he quickly said “No, bring the big-dog, we’ll make it work.”
A few months ago, I got a call to play a rockabilly/calypso gig, I showed up with my NSD WAV bass. It sounded great! but watching the video, it is not exciting to see me standing next to this stick as opposed to me spinning my upright between songs. P.S. they haven’t called me back for a gig since then, lol.
What To Do?
I really don’t know. I’ve been heading in the direction of NSD bass for a while. I switched my upright from gut strings to steel wrapped nylon to get a more traditional jazz sound and get used to steel under my fingers. I’ve been doing more recording projects with my NSD WAV with steel strings… and now I have the little bass that can cover everything from electric to upright, I can strap it on or put it on a stand. The sound is everything I want. But I’m a big guy and standing next to this little stick on a stand is not a great look for a live “show.” Part of my problem is I always want it to be all or nothing, All Upright. All one amp. All one pedal for everything. and now this NSD is all that, but I look like I’m playing a clarinet on stage, not a bass!
I guess I’ll be carrying around my big up-right for many gigs until I’m too old to carry it. But more progressive groups like my main group, Jelly Roll Mortals may see me showing up more and more with my NSD.